Strong Momentum and Brisk Sales at the Art Los Angeles Contemporary Fair
“The weather doesn’t hurt,” says a colleague, shrugging. He is also wandering the fair in search of the “most interesting booth.” Hollywood gallerist Tif Sigfrids’s booth is the obvious choice. Sigfrids gave L.A.-based conceptual artist Joe Sola a solo show, and he has hired a young car salesman named Brandon to sell his very confrontational paintings about rape. (In one, a man on a cell phone says, “My lawyers will rape his lawyers.”) Watching the silver-tongued salesman wrestle with his sales pitch is uncomfortable.
But sales seem brisk at David Kordansky Gallery, where director Kurt Mueller is talking to a collector in front of a solo presentation of
In the courtyard lounge, artist
Inside, someone buys a work at Paris-based gallery PRAZ-DELAVALLADE. Hands are shook. In the center of the fair, Javier Peres, a Berlin-based dealer who used to own a space in L.A., is surrounded by collectors. “Honey, did you buy this one?” a woman asks, pointing at a
In the café, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist is doing a signing of his new zine, which contains an interview with Mexican artist
“Me!” exclaims Fleming. “This one is for me.”
Fleming has watched the fair grow after some choppy years of low sales.
“Last year, for whatever reason, we were firing on all cylinders,” he tells me after getting his zine signed. “It just caught on. We had been seeing 500 people every two hours, and last year it was 1000 people coming through the door every two hours. I haven’t seen the figures yet this year, but it looks like more.”
The room does seem more packed than in past years. Though ALAC actually saw a slight drop in galleries from 64 in 2014 to 62 this year, there are 17 new galleries in the fair this year, meaning that there’s always someone ready to take over if a gallery decides to not participate. “There’s just a lot of momentum this year,” he says, motioning to the crowd.
Architect Kulapat Yantrasast, who walks by as soon as Fleming mentions him, designed the back area. A shrewd VIP program, with artist studio visits (including a stop at Sola’s) and trips to the concurrent art fairs, the L.A. Art Book Fair and Paramount Ranch, has spurred collectors and curators to make the trip.
I ask art advisor Nancy Chaikin to point me to something overlooked, and she directs me towards the booth of Grice Bench, a gallery so new in L.A., barely anyone has heard of it. That makes for one of the subtle surprises of the fair. Owned by artist Jon Pylypchuk and James Bae, Grice Bench had works out from each of their artists, like Christina Forrer and Max Jansons. “We didn’t know if we should do the fair,” Pylypchuk says, shrugging. “But we did.”
Around the fair, the works were mainly tailored to an Angeleno audience. Lots of pink and blue gradient sunset colors shaded the paintings and sculptures, and much of the work seemed directly descended from the plastic-gloss-loving Finish Fetish movement that happened in mid-1960s L.A.
Art Los Angeles Contemporary is still growing into itself, trying to figure out its identity. For now, it seems to embody the most “professional” art fair in L.A., compared to the punky Art Book Fair and Paramount Ranch. But ALAC seems young in and of itself. There aren’t any giant sculptures (apart from Aaron Wrinkle and Michael Decker’s Lazy Boy, which first showed at L.A. gallery Chin’s Push, at the fair’s entrance), very few important pieces by establishment artists, and no installations that burst from the seams of the booth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; there’s a certain charm in necessitated restraint.
Maybe ALAC is the young-professional art fair, then, sharply dressed and going places.
Speaking of going places: “What are you doing after?” a young curator from New York asks me. “I heard there’s an afterparty at Kordansky’s.”